Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Game Day: Will the Lightning Strike Twice?

Happy Thanksgiving Eve everybody.  Today when so many are traveling to be with loved ones for the Holiday – our beloved New York Rangers are traveling out of town  - down to Florida – to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning.

In the last 6 games – the Rangers have 3 shut out wins – two against first place teams – by a combined score of 12-0.  And we have two shoot out losses where we collected two more points.  But the one really bad spot in that 6 game stretch was our loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning – at home – by a lopsided score of 5-1. 

Tonight the Rangers will either avenge that loss – or take more of the same.  The Lightning has a whiff of the familiar about them.  Like us, they once had John Tortorella coach them – but they won the cup with him.  They were the former homes of Brad Richards and Marty St. Louis.  And they are current home of ex-Rangers Ryan Callahan, Anton Stralman, and Brian Boyle.  So a lot of bloodlines there.  The ex-Rangers exorcized their demons when they visited the garden last week.  But today will be Marty St. Louis’ first return to his old arena after spending well over a decade in their uniform.

Where They Stand:  If Vancouver’s 2-0 lead over the Devils holds up for another 5 minutes of game time – the Rangers (with 22 points at 9-7-4) will find themselves precariously in third place in the Metropolitan division – and as such – in the playoffs if they started today – which they wouldn’t because it’s only November – but you see what I mean.   The Lightning – on the other hand – are a 2nd place team in the Atlantic division (with 30 points at 14-6-2) and have a decent grip on a playoff spot of their own.

Is He Back Yet?:  No – but Ryan McDonagh is finally practicing with the team.  He should be back on the ice in a week or two.

There’s more to say – but it’s after midnight and I’ll leave it for tomorrow.  Dave Pucks out and thanks for stopping by

Monday, November 24, 2014

Blueshirts Beat the Best (Badly)

Well, all of you Ranger fans who witnessed live the Ranger's 5-0 drubbing of the first place – former playoff foe - Montreal Canadiens had a much better time than I did last night. I was watching the Giants lose in the final 2 minutes to Dallas – while sitting amid a sea of loud drunk Cowboy fans.

I would have much rather been with you (even if I did see what may be the GREATEST CATCH IN THE HISTORY OF PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL- so amazing in fact that in real time my brain could not process what my eyes had just seen. I thought we were cheering the interference flag – and only gradually realized that Odell had - incredibly - caught the ball with 3 fingers!).

But – back to hockey - what you all got to see was the Rangers showing once again what they are capable of when they focus and do the work for a full 60 minutes. Montreal is one of the league's best teams – the best if you count up all their standings points - and (like the Penguins last week) the Rangers dismantled them. Just took them apart. Bombed them for 5 goals. Shut them out. Limited them to 10 shots on goal in the final 2 periods. Hank only had to save 20 overall. And if you score 5 goals and limit Hank to 20 shots against – you can bet the neighborhood that the Rangers will win.

Now – before we get ahead of ourselves – we didn't face the Canadien's number one net minder. It was Dustin Tokarski – not Carey Price who let us the 5 spot to the Blueshirts. But I don't think Carey would have made this a 0-0 OT game either. The Rangers had jump – poise playmaking – and everything in between.

Marty St. Louis took over the game in the 2nd – making a perfect pass to Derek Stepan for Ranger goal number 2 and stealing the puck from Alexi Emelin and beating Tokarski to make it 3-0.

In the 3rd it was nice to see Duclair get an assist and Hagalin a goal for 4-0. And then – who else from the Ranger's leading goal scorer Rick Nash to round out the scoring.

For here it's 2 days off and then a rematch with the Tampa Bay Lighting team that embarrassed the Rangers a few days ago. I'm thinking we'll show a little more fight this time. Dave Pucks out and thanks for looking in on us.

Sent from my iPhone

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Game Night: Rangers Vs. Canadiens

A friend once advised me not to use the word “hate” when associated with rival hockey teams – that the term was hurtful and that it tended to perpetuate the same base human “caveman” thinking that can, if unchecked, lead to bigotry, war, and genocide.

After some soul-searching and careful thought - what I have learned from this experience is to stop associating with that friend.  But I don’t hate that friend – which hopefully is an indication of some sort of emotional growth on my part.  Or maybe not at all.

Anyway – in the world of hockey there are the Rangers – who we love – and then two other categories of other teams:

1 – Teams we don’t have much of an opinion about (Colorado?  Winnipeg? – Are they even in the league), and 

2 – Teams we hate (and this is a MUCH LARGER CATEGORY)

And for category #2 what’s interesting is that we hate these rival teams in all sorts of different ways.  For example – we dislike the Kings in a whole different way than we dislike the Flyers – which is in turn different from our dislike of the Penguins.  And don’t get me started on the Capitals.  Or the Islanders.  Or the Devils.

It’s really quite a testament to the human condition.   We Ranger fans - as living breathing feeling human beings - have such a varied, complex, and textured ability to dislike so many other teams in so many unique and different ways.  It’s really a beautiful thing when you think about it. 

 So.  Montreal.  I think what is interesting here is that the Habs (and no I don’t remember what that term comes from) (Editor – should I look it up?) (Dave Pucks – No.)….

Where was I?  What is interesting about the Habs is that they, in all probability, hate us much more than we hate them.  Now, the bad feelings about the 1979 Stanley Cup finals have kind of blown over by now (not for me – honestly – but for most of you) , but last year’s semi final round still looms large in our collective memories.  (Editor – you completely lost me.)  (Dave Pucks – that’s not hard to do, Ed) (Editor – who has a large loom and who is collecting memories from whom?)  (Ignoring you, Ed, and continuing on).

The reason Montreal hates us is that last year, in the Stanley Cup Semi playoffs – our new York Rangers defeated the Canadiens after injuring their start Goalie Carey Price in game one. 

(For the record – Chris Kreider was pushed from behind and didn’t have a whole lot of control as he skidded on what is designed to be a super-slippery surface toward a player who is covered in literally hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of padding.   And before they realized how serious the injury was – Price, his coach, and his teammates all told the press they realized the injury was accidental.  It wasn’t until they realized that Price was out for the season that they engaged in the worst sort of revisionist history – now claiming that Kreider hurt price on purpose – and using this as a rallying cry to try and ignite their franchise to raise its effort level.  It was disingenuous.)  (Editor – that means they knew they were lying and said it anyway) (Dave Pucks – I know that)  (Editor – I know you know that – I’m explaining it to the folks out there that don’t know that).

Anyway – Montreal hates us more than we hate them.  And they’re a good first place team over there in the Atlantic Division (a division name that as far as I can tell means absolutely nothing).  So – my point is (Editor – you’re finally getting to your point?)  (Dave Pucks – well I was until you interrupted). 

Anyway (again) my point is – the Rangers had better be ready to play their best game – or they will be pushed off the rink like those ice chips that are swept away by that guy with the little broom who – you know – sweeps them away.  (It sounded much better in my head than it looks on the page.)  

(Editor – feel bad about that, Dave) (Dave Pucks – Yes - I'm on it.)     

I’ll be at the Giants game tonight with Chris Crease – but I’ll be back to post the post game later on.  Lets Go Rangers – Pucks Out.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Too Soon?

My good buddy Christopher Crease tells me it’s way too early to be scoreboard watching.  We’re not even at the quarter pole on this season, after all.

But I say “Hooey!”  (and don’t make me say it again).

I mean, the Atlantic division has both of the wild card slots right now - and they have 6 teams with more points than the 4th place Rangers do.

And if that holds up – the Rangers will need to finish 3rd in the eastern Conference to make the playoffs.  So that’s means we need to catch either:

  • The Penguins
  • The Islanders
  • Or The Capitals

So is it too early to scoreboard watch?  I say no – because sooner or later we gotta catch one of these guys.  So tonight – when the Penguins play the Islanders on the back end of a home and home – I was rooting Penguins to keep the Islanders closer to us.  But – naturally – the Islanders won tonight 4-1.  At least this was in regulation – so the Penguins don’t get the loser point tonight that they got in the previous shootout loss. 

So yes – it’s early – but the Penguins and Islanders are 8 points up on our heroes at the moment.  For now we can set our sights on the 3rd place Capitals – who take on the snow-bound Sabres tonight.

Let’s root Sabres and watch that scoreboard.

Dave Pucks Out!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Cam stars as Rangers blank Flyers 2-1


Wow – did we ever need that one!  The Rangers had a huge bounce back game tonight at Madison Square Garden – blanking their hated rivals the Philadelphia Flyers 2-0 behind a tremendous performance by Cam Talbot in goal.  And he was all that was in the Ranger goal because no Flyer shots got past him.

The Rangers were just the better team tonight in downing a Philadelphia team that has not won a game on Ranger home ice since 2011.  The interesting thing is that Steve Mason, the Flyer goaltender – was amazing – collecting 32 saves – including several spectacular ones and was probably the best goaltender on the ice tonight.  Our heroes could have easy scored 4 or 5 goals tonight if not for Mason’s steady hand in the opposing net.
In the 5th minute of the first period, Derek Brassard did some great work keeping the puck alive behind the Flyer net.  Then Carl Hagelin took over – whipping the puck from behind the end line to Kevin Klein who was darting towards the net.  Klein, who leads Ranger defensemen in scoring, snapped the puck past Mason who never had a chance, to give the Rangers the 1-0 lead.

In the second, it was the Rangers on the powerplay that produced goal number two.  A great Stepan pass to Marty St. Louis – who had a great opportunity in close to Mason’s left.  But St. Louis, instead of shooting, zipped a perfect pass across the ice to Rick Nash – who had the puck on his stick and the entire net to shoot at.  Nash notched his 13th goal of the season and the Rangers had their two goal lead.

And it held up.  The Flyers kept mounting pressure in the third – but the Rangers defended well and Cam Talbot saved them all.

I also want to mention one of the several great sequences by St. Louis,  With a melee in front of the Ranger net – Marty slid in to the crease to cover for and out-of-position Talbot and then calmly sticked the puck out of the Ranger crease and out of danger. 
The win stopped the bleeding for a Ranger team that seemed to be reeling as of late.  And if Cam Talbot can keep this up it will be a huge advantage for the Rangers.  If you remember last year – it was Cam who got us through Hank’s slump and gave the King the rest he needs to be in top form come playoff time.

Did Special teams decide this game?  (Editor – are you asking me?) (Dave Pucks – no it’s a literary device – and also a recurring feature in the blog)  (Editor – like me?) (Dave Pucks – no – not like you – this device works).  Anyway – yes special teams decided this game.  The Ranger special teams got a goal on four attempts – and I’ve got to say Dan Boyle makes us looks so much more organized when we have the extra skater.  You can see him talking out there - and directing traffic as he tries to get his fellow Rangers in the right positions.  And as his hand heals and the rust fades – I think we’ll see even more from Boyle – good acquisition by Sather.  (Editor – isn’t this supposed to be about special teams?) (Dave Pucks – okay – I’ll get back to that).  On the Penalty Kill the Rangers were a perfect 4-4 and that was the difference tonight.

So a good game all around for our Rangers – who will face the Flyers 2 more times in the next 11 days.  It was great to rest Hank – it was great to get Cam the shutout – and it was great to win a hockey game – and in regulation no less.

Maybe this gets us started.  Pucks out.

Here come the Flyers

Well kids - we might not feel emotionally ready to play a hockey game - but here come the Flyers to take us on in Madison Square Garden tonight.

And just when you thought you were safe from ex-Rangers - here comes Michael Del Zotto to take on his former teammates.

The Flyers are always tough - in all meanings of that word.

So strap in - here it comes.

More later. Dave Pucks out.

Sent from my iPhone

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Lightning Strikes

Oh poop. I don't even know what to say about this one. If you want a positive – here it is: Madison Square Garden did a nice video tribute to Ryan Callahan – a classy move and one of the few positive moments for the Rangers all day.

One other positive – little old Marty St. Louis scored against his old teammates – briefly making the contest back into a one goal game.

But the rest was bad. 5 goals against – 2 by Ryan Callahan. A loss to Callahan and Brian Boyle and Anton Stralman and the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Our defense is still struggling. And it seems that if we don't score at least 3 goals this year – we don't have a chance.

The Rangers fall to 7-7-4. Let's hope this is rock bottom and it's up ice from here.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Game Night: Rangers vs. Ex-Rangers

Tonight our beloved Red Pants take on the Tamps Bay Lightning – who come to Madison Square with a trio of ex-Rangers from last year's roster.

Let's start with Ryan Callahan – former Ranger Capitan with (literally) the capital C. Captain Cally always brought the intangibles – but he over-priced himself in the free agent market and ended up losing his home – and his original asking price. When the Rangers thrived without him – surging to the Stanley Cup finals in his absence – it put a new negative spin on all that came before. Out When Ryan – in came Marty St. Louis – and the Rangers were for all appearances better off. That said we will always have a place in our hockey hearts for the forward who always gave 100% (because 110% is not physically possible). It should be interesting to hear how the garden faithful react to his return in a Lightning uniform.

Brian Boyle – a big physical hustling forward who – if he could accurately shoot the puck – could have been a great player – but I guess that's true of almost everyone. We always liked big Brian – and who can ever forget that it was him that put the Rangers ahead of the Kings – if briefly – in game 5. If that lead had held up – we return to MSG for game 6 and… Don't get me started. It will be interesting to see Dan Boyle checking Brian Boyle – (Boyle on Boyle action!) if that in fact ever happens.

Anton Stralman blossomed into a top 4 defenseman here and is missed – particularly with the injuries and suspensions that has the Rangers playing with not one but two Hartford call up defensemen just a week ago. Anton was a big part of our success last year – but the Salary Cap is what it is and I think Glen Sather has managed it pretty intelligently this past year.

Put that all together and you get a very interesting homecoming tonight.